Location, Location, Location (Environments)
Hello, and welcome to “Where Good Ideas Come From.” This course—much of it inspired by Steven Johnson’s book of the same title—will walk you through several different methods for generating great ideas.
Here are a few examples of great ideas throughout history. As you can see, an idea can be an invention, an insight, a discovery, or just something slightly different than what had been thought of before:
• the printing press
• the internet
• [your idea here]
Am I saying that you’re going to invent the modern day equivalent to the printing press after reading ten short emails? Well, no. But you will understand two key things: where ideas come from and how to create environments for good ideas.
Our first topic: environments.
I begin with environments because there is likely no greater influence on creativity and ideation than your environment. That’s a bold claim but I think you’ll come to agree.
What has proven true throughout history is that most ideas are not formed in a vacuum. They’re born from some other idea—be it an existing idea taken a step further, a mixture of ideas to create something new, or an idea in one context applied to another. Indeed, you would be hard-pressed to find an idea that arrived wholly independent of the world around it.
With ideas coming often from the “stuff” around you, it should be obvious why that stuff (i.e. your environment) is so important.
• Your environment will determine what and whom you come in contact with, which dictates the stimuli for your thinking.
• Your environment will determine what other ideas mix with your ideas, and the mixing of ideas is a proven source for new, higher-order ideas.
• Your environment will determine the tools and platforms you have at your disposal to build upon and evolve ideas.
This course will discuss how to design your environment to maximize your chances of having good ideas. As Steve Johnson explains, “Some environments squelch new ideas; some environments seem to breed them effortlessly.” This course will try to demystify why that is, pulling much of the content from his book.
What this course will not do is to advocate “thinking harder” or “studying more” or “drinking a lot of coffee.” All of those things can, in theory, help you generate good ideas, but they are not the “big dials.”
In short, environments are crucial to generating great new ideas. This should come as welcome news, as it means anyone can improve their thinking by properly engineering their environment. Creativity is not something you are or are not born with.
That’s all for now. Once again, I’m happy to have the chance to share this information with you. See you tomorrow when we’ll discuss “Hunches.”
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